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Working out chords - through theory?

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Marion 14 Sep 00 - 10:39 PM
Mbo 14 Sep 00 - 10:49 PM
death by whisky 14 Sep 00 - 10:57 PM
domenico 14 Sep 00 - 11:14 PM
MsMoon 14 Sep 00 - 11:43 PM
John in Brisbane 15 Sep 00 - 01:24 AM
sophocleese 15 Sep 00 - 01:38 PM
GUEST,Mbo_at_ECU 15 Sep 00 - 01:40 PM
GUEST,George in NF 15 Sep 00 - 01:46 PM
M.Ted 15 Sep 00 - 02:32 PM
M.Ted 15 Sep 00 - 04:19 PM
MMario 15 Sep 00 - 04:33 PM
Mudjack 15 Sep 00 - 04:53 PM
domenico 15 Sep 00 - 04:58 PM
Kim C 15 Sep 00 - 05:09 PM
mousethief 15 Sep 00 - 06:24 PM
domenico 15 Sep 00 - 06:59 PM
mousethief 15 Sep 00 - 08:23 PM
Uncle Jaque 15 Sep 00 - 09:24 PM
Oversoul 15 Sep 00 - 10:01 PM
GUEST,Joerg 15 Sep 00 - 10:38 PM
M.Ted 16 Sep 00 - 10:59 AM
dick greenhaus 16 Sep 00 - 11:15 AM
M.Ted 16 Sep 00 - 01:41 PM
GUEST,Joerg 16 Sep 00 - 09:53 PM
MK 16 Sep 00 - 10:19 PM
Marion 17 Sep 00 - 06:04 PM
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Marion 20 Sep 00 - 10:44 PM
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Subject: Working out chords - through theory?
From: Marion
Date: 14 Sep 00 - 10:39 PM

Hello all. When I try to ear out chords for songs that I like, sometimes it goes well, and sometimes it's totally frustrating. When I'm looking for the chord for a bar of melody, I start with the I IV V VIm possibilities, and if none work, I try every chord I can think of, but for some songs I just can seem to get anywhere through trial and error.

(A prime example is Dougie Maclean's Solid Ground - if anyone knows chords please take pity on me - I've made several stalwart attempts at earing it out and there are sections I just can't get).

I don't think that the problem is me giving up too easily. It might be the problem is that I don't know enough chords to try out - but I'm not looking for perfect chords necessarily, just what is minimally acceptable, and I assume that in most (all?) cases where obscure chords are ideal that you can still get by with cowboy chords?

So if anyone has any general tips on earing out song chords, I'd like to hear them. But my specific question is this:

Since music (or harmony anyway) is basically a math game, is it not possible to calculate logically what the chord to harmonize a piece of melody must be, just through a knowledge of theory, and some scrap paper to calculate on?

It seems to me that it SHOULD be possible to look at a piece of music you don't know and say "This bar has the notes W, X, Y, and Z, so the chord must be X major".

I suppose it might be a question not of what notes appear in the unit of melody but what notes are in accented positions. Or it might be a question of what the chords of the preceding or following bars are.

Is it possible that two identical bars of music can be harmonized with different chords because they fall in different parts of the song? Or be harmonized with different chords because they appear in songs of two different keys?

This might be a complicated question. Or maybe there's some simple rule of thumb that everyone knows but me. So I toss it out here...

Marion


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Subject: RE: Working out chords - through theory?
From: Mbo
Date: 14 Sep 00 - 10:49 PM

Most songs have a basically simple chord structure. Especially things like folk/trad/whatever. If you know the key, you can almost predict what chord is going to be used next. I'm pretty good at figuring out chords by ear, so it comes easy to me, I suppose. I hardly ever bother with music theory when it comes to getting chords right. And Marion, I figure out the chords for "Solid Ground" by Dougie for you, but I've never heard the song before. If you have it on CD, could you perhaps tape the song and send it to me? I could figure out the chords from that for you.


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Subject: RE: Working out chords - through theory?
From: death by whisky
Date: 14 Sep 00 - 10:57 PM

Add a finger here,take one off there,thats what I do. Mess around. Close your eyes,its an aural thing....

Best wishes D.B.W.


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Subject: RE: Working out chords - through theory?
From: domenico
Date: 14 Sep 00 - 11:14 PM

Assuming a piece stays in the same key (pretty basic for most Traditional music) you can identify its Key immediately with only three notes. Sit down with a piece of staff paper, and put in the first three notes successively up the scale (if you're learning by ear, and not written notation, assume the simplest starting note, C, and figure out the number of whole/half steps you have between each note.

Once you have that, you can determine whether its major or minor by fitting it into the "pattern" of Major vs. Minor:

Root 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th Root Major: R - 1 - 1 - 1/2 - 1 - 1 - 1 - 1/2 (Root again) Minor: R - 1 - 1/2 - 1 - 1 - 1/2 - 1 - 1 (Root again)

Now, looking at the notes you should be playing, and knowing that in order or precedence the most "instrumental" notes in a composition are:

Root - 5th - 4th - 3rd - 6th - 7th - 2nd

...you can plug in your song, and figure out if it's major or minor, all of the other notes and any accidentals, which chords (in that key) you are probably playing at a particular phrase, and finally, the rest of the accompaniment.

Easy, huh... :)


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Subject: RE: Working out chords - through theory?
From: MsMoon
Date: 14 Sep 00 - 11:43 PM

Let's not make this sound TOO easy, though. For MOST folk/trad stuff, these strategies will work. But as your listening expands, so does your awareness of the complexities that are out there. I don't know the song you mention, but I've spent many a frustrated evening trying to break down the notes in an a flat minor diminished add 9 and hold the mayo.

And that's even before you run across open tunings and up-and-down the neck fingerpicking!


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Subject: RE: Working out chords - through theory?
From: John in Brisbane
Date: 15 Sep 00 - 01:24 AM

Marion, you've raised a really good question! I'll provide a perspective of someone who's pretty good at developing chords by ear, but who gets stumped from time to time. I have three suggestions.

(1) Know your genre! There are clearly different chords for different music styles - Celtic, Ragtime, Blues. If, for example, you haven't encountered Eastern European dance music be prepared to throw your standard chord progressions out the window. But once you get a bit of experience the task is a lot easier.

(2) Examine the most forceful melody note in the difficult phrase, probably the first note. Then look for chords which contain that note. If you're in the key of C start with the simplest chords that you may expect to find and if necessary then move on to the Major, Minor or Seventh chords. Hence if you find an Ab in the melody you'll find it in the F Minor chord. Only then move on to Chords which are outside of what you would normally find, say Ad or Db. In my experience the third step is rarely necessary or fruitful.

(3) Experiment with a program such as ABCMUS (Shareware). I can't recall whether the un-registered version calculates chords for you - I think it does. While the results can vary from spectacular to awful it can give you unexpected clues as to alternative chords. Apart from the 'strageness factor' which you should play around with, there are other complex algorithms to tweak - but I don't have the theory background to make much sense of it.

Last weekend I was asked to sing Nancy Spain. I refused on the basis that I wasn't comfortable with something about it. I sat down the follwing day and completely re-wrote the usual chords for it. There is no such thing as 'the right chords' because only you will know if you're satisfied with what you're playing. Enjoy the quest. Regards, John


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Subject: RE: Working out chords - through theory?
From: sophocleese
Date: 15 Sep 00 - 01:38 PM

Thanks John for saying "There is no such thing as 'the right chords' because only you will know if you're satisfied with what you're playing." Makes me feel better as I like to come up with my own chords for things... Great question Marion I also want some ideas.


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Subject: RE: Working out chords - through theory?
From: GUEST,Mbo_at_ECU
Date: 15 Sep 00 - 01:40 PM

Remember to use lots of suspensions and added bass notes--they can add a world of variety!


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Subject: RE: Working out chords - through theory?
From: GUEST,George in NF
Date: 15 Sep 00 - 01:46 PM

John in Brisbane,

I noticed that you "re-wrote" the chords to Nancy Spain, suggesting that there are no "right" chords. You suggest that only the person playing can determine if they are satisfied with the chords. I have to disagree. Nancy Spain was written to a specific melody, and is meant to be played that way. You may choose to play it in a different key to suit your singing voice, but to suggest that there are "no right chords" is wrong. I have heard too many songs that people have "re-written the chords" to suit them. The melody, and tempo have been changed so that the song is nothing like the original, and sounds terrible. If you don't like a song, don't change the chords to suit you. Write your own song. I play and sing Nancy Spain the way it was written to be sung. If I was "uncomfortable" with its melody, I'd find another song. It is a beautiful song that I have heard sung in more than one way. When the chords are changed, it is wrong.

And Marion, forget the pen and paper and math. As you get used to how groups of chords sound, you will continue to get better at learning by ear. If you can't figure out a chord, ask around 'til you find out from someone else. There is alway's someone out there who can help. Good Luck

George


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Subject: RE: Working out chords - through theory?
From: M.Ted
Date: 15 Sep 00 - 02:32 PM

With great trepidation, I will add a few things(because of the great internet "more is less principle" :the more there is to read, the less likely you will be able to make sense out of it)

Well begun is half done: Count out the actual length of the melody that you are learning, in measures, and mark out the measures either on a music staff, or with slash marks on a blank page.Something like this would be fine:/----/----/----/----/----/----/ etc

Instead of playing the whole chords, try this--

just find the bass notes by sloshing up and down on the Low E and A strings till you figure out what key you are in (it will generally be the note that you can play most often during the tune, especially in the first and the last measures)

Go back to the beginning, and count measures that you can play this note in *Don"t worry about majors and minors yet*

Mark the only the counts in each the measures that you can play the note on--for a simple blues, it might look like this:

/AAAA/AAAA/AAAA/AAAA/----/----/AAAA/AAAA/----/----/AAAA/----/

Now, instead of having 12 measures to figure out, you only have five. And since you are working with a folk song, in a major key, there are only two other chords, or notes, that you can choose from. A Piece of cake.

The trick is to get the measures that are easy out of the way, and, at the same time, reduce the number of choices for the measures that are hard to figure out. After you've got the bass note for each chord, you will know what the chord should be, and you can figure out major,minor or whatever, very easily.

The way that people get lost is through fudging, since when you fudge, you don't know exactly what you've got and what you don't have.

Other helpful things to remember are:

Chord changes usually come only on the first and third beats of any given measure(and sometimes not that often)

Most songs start and end on the same chord.

Most melodies consist of phrases that are either two or four measures long--

Most songs alternate of a phrase that uses the Tonic(Keyname chord) such as "C" with the dominant "G7"

Although there are many songs, there are fewer melodies, and even fewer still chord progressions, so most songs in a given genre will use one of four or five basic chord progressions, with minor alterations.

Don't let key changes fool you, the chord progression doesn't change.

Every note in a scale is occurs in either the Tonic (C) the Sub-Dominant (F) or the Dominant (G7) chord. That is why most songs end up being three chord tunes.

A lot of minor chords in major melodies (and major chords in minor melodies) are substituted for more basic chords because they add harmonic flavor (which means you don't need them, but it might not sound quite as nice without them)

Figuring out chords progressions isn't so much a matter of figuring out chords, as of recognizing what progression that you are hearing.

My guitar teacher used to get a lot of calls for pick-up up bands, so he decided to learn every tune in the standard fake book (about 1500). He said, after I learned the first fifty, the rest were easy.


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Subject: RE: Working out chords - through theory?
From: M.Ted
Date: 15 Sep 00 - 04:19 PM

George,

I can appreciate your feelings--certainly it is often the case that the new arrangements of a song are not a pleasing to us as the familiar version, but the fact of the matter is that their are many different arrangements that we can make of a song, or melody, and there is a great amount of latitude in the chordal accompaniment, as well.

The area of harmony allows so many possibilities that quite a number of different arrangers worked independently, each would likely come up with a completely distinctive version.

I might make stay with a tonic chord against the melody, while someone else follow the melody note to the fifth and back. Someone else might go to the mediant chord, and a forth person might stick with the tonic for the phrase but kick a little turnaround in at the end of the phrase.

Still, the guiding rule is that the arranger (and in folk music, every performer is an arranger as well) use subtly, taste, and good judgment, and and work with an fundamental respect for the piece--Wouldn't it be nice?


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Subject: RE: Working out chords - through theory?
From: MMario
Date: 15 Sep 00 - 04:33 PM

I don't have the foggiest idea what any of you are talking about, but it's fascinating watching you discuss it! (I have decided my life is much much simpler not knowing how to play an instrument)


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Subject: RE: Working out chords - through theory?
From: Mudjack
Date: 15 Sep 00 - 04:53 PM

Ahhh Thanks for the thread as it is frustrating to think you have a pretty good ear for things and Bang, some song shuts you down for one chord or note. Desparation once caused me to try my chromatic tuner to find a given note or chord and it works on occassion but not always. Maybe because it is one of those decorated notes by lifting one finger or adding an accent.Thanks Catters for some new ideas.
Mudjack


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Subject: RE: Working out chords - through theory?
From: domenico
Date: 15 Sep 00 - 04:58 PM

I think the term there is "arrangement", though. Yes, there are a lot of ways to play with harmonies, and with suspensions, anticipations, bridges, secondary dominants, and every other aural "trick" in the book, you can do whatever you'd like to make it your own...

BUT, to take a I-V-IV-II progression, and rewite it into a I-vii-V-v, can have ugly results, especially if the "arranger" in question unknowingly leaves a melody tracing the original chord structure.

A great way to practice, using Ted's suggestion, is to go pick up any one of Bach's four part piano pieces, and try it, to see if you can spot the "trends" that invariably come up. Baroque is very precise in its meter, and tends to be very simple in its structure. You can stare at four part 8th notes, reduce them down to quarter notes (look at how each voice tends to work around its "chord", you'll see R-3-5-3-R-6-4-R in one bar, in one voice, and realize "Hey, the first four are obviously I, and the last four are obviously IV") and eventually spot the chord progression. The trends you'll see (and you'll recognize them in everything now)...:

I-IV-V-I (EX: Summertime Blues) I-IV-V-IV (EX: Louie, Louie) I-V-IV-V I-III-IV-V I-VI-V-VI

Just keep looking, keep playing, and always listen for what sounds good.


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Subject: RE: Working out chords - through theory?
From: Kim C
Date: 15 Sep 00 - 05:09 PM

Well. Even though I have one of those fancy Musical Edifications and can Reed Muzik Reel Goode, I have relied mostly on my ear for as long as I can remember. I haven't ever really tried to figure out how it works, though. (does that make sense?)

Anyway if I get stuck on a chord I try to figure out what its root note is and go from there. Which is probably what some of you have been saying, only in other words. Now, notice I said ROOT note and not BASS note. A G could be played with a B or a D bass note - follow me? If you can sit down with somebody in person this process would be much easier.

My ear is very reliable and this sometimes causes contention between me and the Mister learning a new song! But it's all an adventure, isn't it?


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Subject: RE: Working out chords - through theory?
From: mousethief
Date: 15 Sep 00 - 06:24 PM

On the "no such thing as the right chords" comment -- a well-requested part of my repertoire is (don't hate me) "American Pie." I know the words by heart but usually read the chords as I go (sad, sorry, I know).

This year at the annual campout at church, I forgot my book, and had to wing the chords. I usually play it in "G" but it's just slightly beyond the top of my range, so before the campfire I hid myself and worked out a chord progression in C. Worked much better. But when I got home and looked at the book, the chords I worked out were quite different from what they would be if I simply transposed the ones in the book. Worked just as well though, if not better.

So don't fret too much (pun intended) about chords - what matters is how it sounds.

Alex
O..O
=o=


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Subject: RE: Working out chords - through theory?
From: domenico
Date: 15 Sep 00 - 06:59 PM

Mouse, I think what I'd be sure to caution against is blind changes.

Using your example, if I were to take the chorus, /I-IV/I-V/I-IV/I-V/I-IV/I-V/IV-I/IV-V/

and keep the vocal line, but change the Chords to:

/I-vii/VI-V/I-vii/VI-V/I-vii/VI-V/vii-I/vii-I

I would still be vaguely "right", in regards to the tonic, if I assumed that the Vocal line was written from the tonic, but as you added on the incidental "passing" notes that the lyrics and tune dictate, it would sound miserable.

To Marion, I think I would just say, a little theory goes a long way, there is a very simple fixed formula that will help you out, BEADGCF (the cycle of fifths), and a primer into Tonic, Dominants, Sub-Dominants, and Secondary Dominants are all you need to do damn near anything, and yes, above all, do what sounds good... :)


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Subject: RE: Working out chords - through theory?
From: mousethief
Date: 15 Sep 00 - 08:23 PM

Huh?

Anyway, like I said, how it sounds is what counts. If it sounds miserable, then the chords aren't right.

Alex
O..O
=o=


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Subject: RE: Working out chords - through theory?
From: Uncle Jaque
Date: 15 Sep 00 - 09:24 PM

All this theory stuff leaves me pretty bewildered, I must confess, despite years and at least one college MUS 101 course trying to sort it all out. I've gotten so I can pretty well muddle my way through a tune and develop at least acceptable chord accompaniments - this can be a challenge when trying to ressurect essentially unheard of for the past Century or so music from the tattered pages of dusty old scores and music books. There are some that require a chord change on every beat for the better part of the tune, and if there's a whole bar with the same chord, I start gasping for breath as if coming up for air from being swept under whitewater rapids! One example is "Weep Not for ME" from the 1850s, to the tune of "All through the Night". Another is the lovely 1860's "My Jesus, I Love Thee" - just not quite so bad.

What I've been doing lately - and studying the Justin HOLLAND 1880 "Method for Guitar" played a part in this - is trying to fingerpick the tune melodically, as Guitarists apparantly used to do back then(this is why you seldom see chord notation in sheet music prior to the 1950s). Every now and again, I'll get a bar or two to pick out just right, and look at my left hand... and VIOLLA! There's our chord!

I use Myriad Software "Melody Assistant" score composition and editing software, which gives you chords and tabs, if you want them (all for $18 US by the way)- but I almost always will "tweak" chords a fair amount from what the computer dictates before i am happy with the final outcome.

It's one of those eternal "art vs. science" controversies which, I suppose, Musicians will quibble over until the proverbial fat lady sings. But'cha know; as long as yer havin' fun and the audience ain't throwin' things at yer, you jest keep a' whailin' away at that ol' thing & beltin' 'em out, Deah... with whatever chords works the best for ye! Affectionately: Yer Auld Uncle Jaque


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Subject: RE: Working out chords - through theory?
From: Oversoul
Date: 15 Sep 00 - 10:01 PM

MEL BAY publications: Jazz Guitar Method by Ronny Lee Volume Two; Jazz Chords and Their Application. This little book can teach you to hear all the possible intervals.


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Subject: RE: Working out chords - through theory?
From: GUEST,Joerg
Date: 15 Sep 00 - 10:38 PM

I can not give any hint how to learn "earing" chords. This comes with experience and feeling, sometimes faster, sometimes slower, maybe also sometimes never.

When my own "earing" fails, I use the following method:

STEP 1: I know the sequence (if you don't, learn it by heart):

F C G D A E B
d a e b f# ? ?

Knowing these chords is enough for me. (Got a capo.) For better alignment I used the german way of naming the chords where lowercase letters mean minor chords ( e.g. C=C, a=Am). For any tone in a song that is completely in a major key you need three adjacent chords in the upper line above where the one in the middle names the key the song is in. (Example: For a song in G (one sharp) you need C(IV), G(I) and D(V), nothing else. For a song in Em (also one sharp) you need the corresponding chords in the lower line, Am(IV), Em(I) and Bmin(V). Compri?) Every step in the lines above means adding a sharp or omitting a flat at the beginning of the line (F or Dm one flat, C or Am nothing at all, G or Em one sharp, D or Bm two sharps ...)

Now every song that does not contain any sharps or flats except those at the beginning of the line which define the key can only need a maximum of six different chords. If I see one sharp at the beginning of the line this song is either in G or Em (so-called 'parallel keys' in german) OR BOTH, and these six chords can be C, G, D, Am, Em, Bm: the key(s) in question in the middle and the two adjacent ones (of each).

STEP 2: If any tone of the melody doesn't match the chord I'm playing (not in reverse!) I have to choose one from those six chords that contains that tone.

So if the key is G or Em (one sharp) and the tone in question is e.g. an E it can be accompanied by a C(C,E,G) or an Em (E,G,B) or an Am(A,C,E).

STEP 3: I use my ear (and heart) to choose one of these possibilities by "try and error". Still no hint how to learn hearing (and feeling).

------

That covers about 95 to 98 percent of the songs I know and like. For the rest (containing in-line sharps or flats) it's almost always one of the chords adjacent to the six which are determined by the key (step 1) and this chord also must contain the sharped or flatted tone in question.

Of course this method only works if HARMONIES are required. If not, you may really need some Xmin7sus5dim+/- or whatever trash was also invented. I don't - simply because I (normally) don't like songs of that kind.

To be fair I should mention that there are still exceptions I like, e.g. "Time In A Bottle" by Jim Croche. AND: There are always several (=many) possibilities to apply that method - CHARMING and BORING ones - that's where art begins...

Hope that helps a little.

Joerg


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Subject: RE: Working out chords - through theory?
From: M.Ted
Date: 16 Sep 00 - 10:59 AM

Uncle Jaque makes an important point, and that is that if you learn to play the melody, then it is fairly easy to drop in the chords.

Dominico makes several important points--especially about the chords roots nearly always being in the melody--it is important to analyze music in order to understand what is happening in it--

Folk music and pop music tend to follow "classical" melodic and harmonic rules that come from what is sometimes called the age of common practice--that is, from roughly the 15th century to the 19th century. When you think that you are playing and writing things "intuitively", you are really using all the information that you have absorbed through years of listening--

It can really help your "ear" to sit down and do a bit of homework, such as Dominico has outlined above--you don't need to use Bach, either, you can sit down with just about any songbook (not a lyric or lyric and chord book, but a real songbook, with musical notation) and check the notes that begin each measure and phrase, and how they relate to the key--

Bt the way(and we have discussed this before, in another of Marion's threads) the chords in songbooks are often wrong!!


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Subject: RE: Working out chords - through theory?
From: dick greenhaus
Date: 16 Sep 00 - 11:15 AM

Well, this all helps illustrate why DigiTrad doesn't generally include chords. Regardless of what anyone says, there aren't "right" chords---though there are lots of wrong ones.


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Subject: RE: Working out chords - through theory?
From: M.Ted
Date: 16 Sep 00 - 01:41 PM

Some chords *do* work better than others--


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Subject: RE: Working out chords - through theory?
From: GUEST,Joerg
Date: 16 Sep 00 - 09:53 PM

Mhmmm -

Maybe I can give you another tip which might be less helpful when you need the chords to some particular song now but much more if this should happen again in the future:

Try to learn as many songs with - uhm - acceptable chords as possible. Hearing ("earing") is learned by experience, you can't ask somebody to teach you how to hear, and many abilities we are sometimes impressed of are also just accomodation of the one who shows them to things he often has to cope with. This will also give you the ability to notice different chords you might hear and to compare: You can only compare one thing with another one if you KNOW it.

And - doing many songs just correctly is much better performance that doing one song perfectly over and over again, isn't it?

Joerg


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Subject: RE: Working out chords - through theory?
From: MK
Date: 16 Sep 00 - 10:19 PM

Do you have good ears?

By that I mean, can you hear a chord and in your head be able to isolate the individual strings that give the chord its tonality?

If so, then try isolating all the notes that make up the chord(s) and find them on the instrument. Doesn't matter where as long as they're the right notes. Once you have those notes, then experiment up and down the neck and group them in the closest cluster that is easiest to play.


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Subject: RE: Working out chords - through theory?
From: Marion
Date: 17 Sep 00 - 06:04 PM

Thanks for all the answers, folks. I think my ear is developing slowly but surely - I get stumped less often, and I'm successful more quickly when I'm successful.

Mbo, thanks for the offer - I'll give the song one more try (it's been months since I last tried) and if I fail again I'll send it to you. Heck, maybe I'll just send it to you anyway - if you like Dougie you need to know this song (you were in the "Ready for the Storm" thread, weren't you?).

Michael K, that sounds like a challenging but useful approach. I'll give it a try.

Mudjack, I have a chromatic tuner. How would you use it to find a missing chord? Or do you mean holding the tuner up to a recorded version of the song to see what the other person's playing?

Domenico, I know what tonics and subdominants and dominants are (at least I assume you're talking about 1,4,5), but what are secondary dominants?

Speaking of developing ears... I've never been very confident tuning my guitar so I bought a tuner. Just recently as an experiment I tuned my E string with the tuner then turned all the other strings way down, then did relative tuning by ear - and was very pleasantly shocked to find that on all 5 strings I was right on or very close. Progress happens! Now I'm wondering if I can train myself to tune my fiddle by ear, though hearing a fifth interval is harder than hearing a unison. I did the same experiment with my fiddle, and I got two strings a full octave apart instead of a fifth apart... sigh..

Marion


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Subject: RE: Working out chords - through theory?
From: domenico
Date: 18 Sep 00 - 04:23 PM

Secondary Dominants are literally taking your piece in its original Key, and at a point where you are on a note, going to *its* V. You build a new key off of that, assuming it as the *new* tonic. In usage, you don't neccesarily change the key of the piece permanently, but it's a "trick" to build out a climax on a piece.

Rather than your finale having a grand I-IV-V-I sequence to finish it off, you tease the listener by building it as: I - IV - V - V/V (5 *of* 5) - V/IV (5 *of* 4) - V/V - V/III - V - I, etc...

It sounds a little more complex than it *sounds*, but you are used to hearing it as the way 90% of all songs take off into Key changes. If you want the *logical* reasoning for why the V/V and V/IV are so powerful, you'll notice that the V/V is built off of the original vii, and the V/IV *is* the original tonic.

The easiest way to digest it, as well as a huge chunk of the *rest* of music theory, is to memorize the sequence I mentioned earlier (the cycle of fifths), and see how many ways it plugs into theory. Learn it, and the rest becomes a snap. Here is the 30 second primer:

The Sequence: B E A D G C F (it is just a simple sequence, starting at B, all one fifth apart)

The rules that follow this sequence:

1. The order in which flats are added to notation of keys

2. The order in which sharps are added to notation of keys (start at the end and work backwards)

3. A Quick *cheat sheet* to the *most* used chords in any given key (in Western Traditional music, at least). Look at the key you want, your V is one to the right, your IV is one to the left, your Secondary Dominant of V (your *teaser* for a flourished finish) is two to the right.

you'll start to see the pattern for yourself, so I won't belabor the point of it any further.

As to your tuning, a quick lesson in physics, to help you *hear* your tuning a little better, and it works beautifully for violins and Guitars. Listen for the overtones that come out of any particular note when you draw it, especially open strings, as they resonate the best. After the primary pitch, the next set of sounds you hear are the octave of that pitch. The *next* set that you hear are the fifths. If you allow your earing to focus on the overtones, and how well they mesh with the other strings, you will have it tuned damn near as good as an oscillioscope... :)

If you pay particular attention, you might even catch the "Hertz" beats that occur when you end up within 12 Hz of matching a frequency exactly. The closer you are, the slower the *beats* are, until your two waves mesh perfectly, indicating a perfect match. You can experience this phenomenon with the overtones too, but only if you can hear their faint nuances (tune up in a tiled bathroom... :)

Enough math for the day... :)

Domenico


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Subject: RE: Working out chords - through theory?
From: Marion
Date: 20 Sep 00 - 10:44 PM

Thanks Domenico. I'll have to start listening for those overtones, and go through your theory primer more slowly.

I know a fiddle tune called Maple Sugar whose format is ABACA. The A and B parts are in A major, and use the chords A and E7. The C part is identical to the B except it's all transposed up a fifth, and the chords are E and B7. Perhaps this is a secondary dominant?

Mbo, you're on. If you PM me your address I'll get a tape ready for you. Sounds like a win-win to me.

Marion


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